An Inescapable Mission

Sister Butler 

An Inescapable Mission

by Jill Fishbaugh

Sister Marissa Butler ’07 says she was drawn to Mercy through the life and vision of Sister Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy, to serve those in need. 

“Mercy has always felt like home to me,” says Butler, who was received as a novice in the Sisters of Mercy in 2018. “My discernment continues to reveal to me that life as a Sister of Mercy is how my gifts can best be used in service to our broken world.”

Butler went on to obtain a graduate certificate and master’s degree in pastoral studies. After working as a developmental training instructor at Misericordia Home in Chicago and ministering at Mercy High School in Burlingame, California, she became chaplain at Mercy Hospital in Joplin, Missouri, where she provided counseling and spiritual support for patients, their families, and hospital staff.

Joel James, Mercy Hospital’s vice president of mission, says Butler was naturally inquisitive. 

“Marissa was rarely satisfied with anything less than the really deep answer,” James says.

From the beginning, he says her calmness and sincere approach to chaplaincy changed the demeanor of the group for good.  

“She is a friend, and I believe that was the special ingredient to her ministry here,” he says. “Being relationally concerned with an open heart is a wonderful gift to offer anyone or any ministry.”

Sister Shari Sutherland ’71, who witnessed Butler’s work as a student in campus ministry, admires her deep compassion to those who were struggling. 

“With her quiet presence, Marissa was able to get to the heart and soul of any matter,” Sutherland says. 

Sister Linda Bechen ’74, vice president for Mission & Ministry, agrees.

“Marissa is steeped in Mercy,” Bechen says, “not only in her ministry, but in who she is.”

“Everyone who journeys on the magical Hill of Mount Mercy leaves changed,” Marissa Butler ’07 says. “You become a part of the Mercy mission, and it becomes an integral part of you.”


Butler comes from a long line of Sisters of Mercy. Nineteen of her relatives were Sisters of Mercy from the Cedar Rapids community. Most were teachers and nurses serving in Eastern Iowa, but one was Sister Mary Cornelia Burke, who served as president of Mount Mercy Junior College from 1933-1939. Burke’s significant work in growing the campus’ education and nursing programs remains her legacy. 

“It seems Mercy is in my blood!” Butler says.

 Coursework paired with various student activities laid a solid foundation for what it means to be Mercy and Catholic in the world.   

“Everyone who journeys on the magical Hill of Mount Mercy leaves changed,” she says. “You become a part of the Mercy mission, and it becomes an integral part of you.”  




Sister Mary Cornella Burke
served as president of Mount Mercy Junior College from 1933 to 1939.